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Moved to tears by Dave’s Hot Chicken

Nashville hot chicken ranges from no spice, to hot, to the indemnified “reaper”

Picnicking with a hot chicken slider from Dave's Hot Chicken
Picnicking with a hot chicken slider from Dave's Hot Chicken

“Due to its extremely hot nature, eating a Dave’s Hot Chicken reaper carries with it the potential for certain risks, some of which may be reasonably foreseeable.”

Place

Dave's Hot Chicken

1001 Garnet Ave Suite 100, San Diego

So reads the “reaper release,” the liability waiver you’re asked to sign when you order the “reaper,” the hottest of seven levels of spiciness served by Dave’s Hot Chicken. The Nashville hot chicken franchise from Los Angeles recently opened its first San Diego location, in Pacific Beach, having garnered long lines and near universal praise since opening in 2017.

The tongue-in-cheek waiver would release the restaurant from liability in case of “bodily injury, property damage, emotional distress, or even death,” and I suppose that last part would be a bit funnier if Pacific Beach hadn’t recently been tabbed a “coronavirus hot spot”. Nevertheless, I donned my mask and braved the socially distant line that already seems a permanent fixture outside the joint.

A "liability waiver" had to be signed before ordering the "reaper."

Why? Because fried chicken is awesome, and with Nashville hot chicken finally trending in San Diego, this promises to be our fieriest rendition to date. Also, my girlfriend’s kids wanted to see if I was really tough enough to handle the reaper. And the youngest not so secretly hoped it would be hot enough to make me cry.

Like many restaurants these days, Dave’s is take-out only, so I made it in and out of Pacific Beach without spending more than a couple minutes inside the restaurant — order online, and they’ll bring it to you curbside.

The chicken was still tender inside and crispy outside when we settled down for a hot chicken picnic in the grass of Mission Bay Park. At $3.50 apiece, I’d picked up seven chicken tenders, ranging from beige to magenta, each representing a different level of spice. For those who don’t appreciate heat, the level one, no-spice chicken is pretty tasty in its own right. It’s not until level four, medium, that you really start to sense a little burn, and not til level six, extra hot, that I was ready to admit, through capsaicin-induced hiccups, that yes, this is some spicy fried chicken.

A Nashville hot chicken tender, served on white bread

I could have left it at extra hot and been happy, but the kids wanted a show, so I started digging into a reaper tender. It tasted fantastic, and with the children watching, my tentative first bite quickly became a hearty fourth bite. Problem is, this spice is a creeper.

At 30 seconds, my lips went numb, then started to burn, like I was trying to kiss a toaster. By 45 seconds, the heat began to build on the back of my tongue. At a minute, my nose started to run, and I started breathing hard in a futile effort to cool my mouth. Not long after, my eyes began to water. That was enough for the kids.

A Los Angeles hot chicken franchise draws lines in Pacific Beach.

“The reaper made Ian cry!” they crowed.

Served with sliced pickles and white bread, the tenders come with a chipotle-mayo dubbed “Dave’s sauce,” and small packets of honey, which works pretty well to contrast the heat. The more popular order seems to be the $5.50 chicken sliders, where the hot chicken tenders are served on a bun with kale slaw, pickles, and sauce. As hot as you like it.

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Picnicking with a hot chicken slider from Dave's Hot Chicken
Picnicking with a hot chicken slider from Dave's Hot Chicken

“Due to its extremely hot nature, eating a Dave’s Hot Chicken reaper carries with it the potential for certain risks, some of which may be reasonably foreseeable.”

Place

Dave's Hot Chicken

1001 Garnet Ave Suite 100, San Diego

So reads the “reaper release,” the liability waiver you’re asked to sign when you order the “reaper,” the hottest of seven levels of spiciness served by Dave’s Hot Chicken. The Nashville hot chicken franchise from Los Angeles recently opened its first San Diego location, in Pacific Beach, having garnered long lines and near universal praise since opening in 2017.

The tongue-in-cheek waiver would release the restaurant from liability in case of “bodily injury, property damage, emotional distress, or even death,” and I suppose that last part would be a bit funnier if Pacific Beach hadn’t recently been tabbed a “coronavirus hot spot”. Nevertheless, I donned my mask and braved the socially distant line that already seems a permanent fixture outside the joint.

A "liability waiver" had to be signed before ordering the "reaper."

Why? Because fried chicken is awesome, and with Nashville hot chicken finally trending in San Diego, this promises to be our fieriest rendition to date. Also, my girlfriend’s kids wanted to see if I was really tough enough to handle the reaper. And the youngest not so secretly hoped it would be hot enough to make me cry.

Like many restaurants these days, Dave’s is take-out only, so I made it in and out of Pacific Beach without spending more than a couple minutes inside the restaurant — order online, and they’ll bring it to you curbside.

The chicken was still tender inside and crispy outside when we settled down for a hot chicken picnic in the grass of Mission Bay Park. At $3.50 apiece, I’d picked up seven chicken tenders, ranging from beige to magenta, each representing a different level of spice. For those who don’t appreciate heat, the level one, no-spice chicken is pretty tasty in its own right. It’s not until level four, medium, that you really start to sense a little burn, and not til level six, extra hot, that I was ready to admit, through capsaicin-induced hiccups, that yes, this is some spicy fried chicken.

A Nashville hot chicken tender, served on white bread

I could have left it at extra hot and been happy, but the kids wanted a show, so I started digging into a reaper tender. It tasted fantastic, and with the children watching, my tentative first bite quickly became a hearty fourth bite. Problem is, this spice is a creeper.

At 30 seconds, my lips went numb, then started to burn, like I was trying to kiss a toaster. By 45 seconds, the heat began to build on the back of my tongue. At a minute, my nose started to run, and I started breathing hard in a futile effort to cool my mouth. Not long after, my eyes began to water. That was enough for the kids.

A Los Angeles hot chicken franchise draws lines in Pacific Beach.

“The reaper made Ian cry!” they crowed.

Served with sliced pickles and white bread, the tenders come with a chipotle-mayo dubbed “Dave’s sauce,” and small packets of honey, which works pretty well to contrast the heat. The more popular order seems to be the $5.50 chicken sliders, where the hot chicken tenders are served on a bun with kale slaw, pickles, and sauce. As hot as you like it.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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